Appropriate Language & Reporting

Each of us – community members, survivors, educators, media, advocates, young and old alike – can play a contributing role in changing the statistics and saving lives from suicide. Whether it’s how we report on suicide deaths, or the language we use so we are not shaming survivors or those who have attempted and are contributing to a more open, impactful dialogue, we can all make a positive difference in suicide prevention. Explore the sections below to learn more.

Reporting on Social Media

There may come a time when you encounter an individual who is expressing thoughts of suicide on your social media sites. You can help by posting a message encouraging them to call the Lifeline at Suicide Lifeline (800) 273.TALK (8255). You can also help by contacting the safety teams on the various social media sites.

  • On Facebook, you can anonymously report someone as suicidal by going to Report Suicidal Content. Facebook’s safety team will send the individual an email with the Lifeline number. You can also use Facebook to support someone in a suicidal crisis. Watch the support video.
  • On Twitter, go to the Help Center and Select “Self-Harm” to send an email to Twitter reporting an individual who is suicidal. Twitter will send a direct message to the individual with the Lifeline number.
  • On Instagram, go to the Help Center and report the individual that shared the suicidal content.
  • On YouTube, you can click on the flag icon under a video and select, “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then, “Suicide or Self-Injury”. YouTube will review the video and may send a message with the Lifeline number.
  • On Tumblr, go to the help page and write an email to Tumblr about an individual who is suicidal. Include as much information as possible, including the URL of the Tumblr blog. Tumblr’s safety team will send the individual an email with the Lifeline number.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with these processes now, so that if the time comes when you encounter an individual who is suicidal, you will know how to report the individual and get him/her help.

Appropriate Language

Talking about suicide can be very difficult for many people. It can be a scary, uncomfortable topic to tackle, but it’s an important one! Having the conversation about suicide and building awareness about the warning signs could save someone’s life. We want to make sure that safe, effective messaging is used.

We believe in people first language, and hope that others become more cognizant of using this type of language whenever talking about individuals who may be experiencing a variety of situations. In this instance, if someone is suicidal or having suicidal thoughts, that would come after the individual. For example, use “an individual who is suicidal”. First and foremost, the person is still a person, and the suicidal ideation is something they are experiencing, not something that defines them. We use similar language when referring to someone with a mental illness of any type. For example, use “someone with bipolar disorder” or “an individual with depression” – not a bipolar individual or depressed individual.

It has long been said that someone “commits” suicide. Again, this is not language that we encourage in our suicide prevention efforts. Saying someone commits suicide implies they have committed a crime or sin. Instead, we encourage language such as “died by suicide” or “completed suicide”. We also do not recommend common language that has been used referring to a successful suicide or failed attempt. No death is a success, and an attempt that is not completed is not a failure. While some may feel this language is insignificant and doesn’t matter, we disagree. Language is powerful, and we encourage anyone discussing suicide and practicing in this area to use that power for good and to help change years of inappropriate language.

For the Media

For additional best practices, visit: nimh.nih.gov or reportingonsuicide.org

Source: Reporting on Suicide 2015